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  • Curriculum included

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*DISCLAIMER: No other discount applies. No credits on free items. One YETI Hopper Flip™ 12 cooler per purchase. Expires October 31, 2017.

5 Ways to Integrate Active Learning into Your Lectures

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

A new buzzword in the education world is “active learning.” Across the country, colleges are adapting from the lecture model to active learning. Imagine your old college days, sitting in a sea of students and listening to the professor talk for one or two hours.  Were you able to stay awake? Kids these days say they cannot.

Perhaps today’s students have become accustomed to being entertained, but more importantly, maybe it is time to abandon that old “sage on the stage” model, even at the highest educational levels.

Active learning does encompass some of the older teaching strategies, such as “think, pair, share” and experiential learning. At Realityworks, we embraced active learning before it had a name. We researched how students learn and found that hands-on learning beat lectures any day.

We’re not saying that there is no longer any room for lectures. However, an active learning technique called PAUSE can help make lectures more impactful to today’s students.

Active learning strategy: Pausing in lecture

These strategies work towards inserting wait time in lectures for students to reflect on, discuss and apply the ideas that were just presented. They encourage students to engage actively in the lecture, rather than passively taking notes. These strategies also help students to realize what they do and don’t understand about the lecture.

Try this with your students by:

  1. Asking them not take notes as you work through a concept on the board. When you are done, give them five minutes to copy your notes down and discuss the concept with peers. This allows students to process the information and identify what they don’t understand.
  2. Pausing for six to ten seconds between asking a question and calling on a student to respond. Have students do a quick write-up about a concept just covered in lecture (e.g. their understanding, two questions they have about the concept as presented, what they would like to know more about, etc.). Optional: Collect the write-ups to help you better understand what they understood from the lecture, what questions they have and how best to keep them engaged.
  3. Conducting “turn and talks.” Ask peers to talk to each other about what they do and don’t understand and/or share with each other what they wrote down in their notes about a particular concept just covered in lecture. Encourage students to add to their notes from the discussion
  4. Having students apply their understanding of a concept just covered by working with a small group around a huddle board. Optional: Have a few groups share their work and elicit reactions and reviews from other students. Summarize findings and scientific normative explanations.
  5. Having students conduct “think-pair-shares,” polling them to keep their minds engaged in the topic and share their ideas with their peers for greater meaning-making opportunities.

I am grateful to work for a company that focuses directly on providing hands-on learning resources that support active learning. The curriculum we pair with these tools is full of resources and activities that help students to experience something before actually doing it.  Our research shows that when this type instruction is provided, the students’ learning occurs more quickly and at a deeper level.

How are you supporting active learning in your classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Diane Ross holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. She has been with Realityworks since 2013, and has been instrumental in assisting educators with implementing educational solutions that make a difference in students’ lives.

The Growing Global Demand on Agriculture

There is a growing demand for food production across the globe. Current estimates are that the world population reached 7 billion in 2012 and there are projections that put the global population at 9.1 billion by 2050. This infographic contains astonishing statistics about the agriculture industry and the demands of both the U.S. and the global populations.

Learn more: Realityworks is now offering a line of innovative learning tools for the Agriculture classroom. Our webinar, Engaging Today’s Agriculture Students in Animal Science, explores using hands-on learning methods in the agriculture classroom. Watch it here.

Building a Stronger Workforce of the Future, One Ag Student at a Time

By Jamey McIntosh, RealCareer Product Manager for Realityworks, Inc.

When I think about the needs that we face in developing a workforce that will keep our country competitive, I think primarily of soft skills. In fact, I hear that concern from educators throughout the field of Career and Technical Education (CTE). Knowing how to act appropriately in a job setting, how to communicate effectively, and even how to search for a job are skills that many educators could say has become a lost art. (In fact, we as a company have heard repeated pleas for resources that help students develop soft skills; it’s why we created the RealCareer Employability Skills Program). We have seen an uptick in the need to teach these skills.

Despite consistently hearing how important soft skills are for today’s generation of students, one thing was also made clear to me on my recent trips to the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators’ (WAAE) summer conference and the Calumet County Farm Days celebration: agricultural educators are getting it right. On my trip to Calumet County, I watched, impressed, as students politely greeted my family and me. Wearing dark blue t-shirts that proudly stated “Brillion FFA” on the front in neon yellow, these students looked me straight in the eye when I talked, greeted me with “yes, sir” (and “no, ma’am” to my wife). They confidently walked us around the barn, explaining the milking process, the importance of hard work and how different jobs were for different needs within agriculture, listening to our questions and answering politely. It was through the students of the Brillion district of the Wisconsin FFA Association that I saw the workforce of tomorrow being formed… and these polite, informed, hardworking and innovative students indicated that the future is bright.

However, this bright future is not something that just happens, despite what some might think. I’ve spent time with agricultural educators across the country as they consider the best ways to engage their students and implement interactive learning aids like our own animal and plant science models, and I’ve seen firsthand the hard work that is put into helping students develop both employability skills and technical, job-related skills. At the WAAE conference, I was surrounded by educators taking time out of their summer to learn about electrical wiring wall panel creation, forestry best practices and other career development practices.

When building our future workforce, we need to remember that hands-on learning and project-based learning are great educational tools. After all, the FFA motto includes “learning to do and doing to learn;” it is through this idea that hands-on learning becomes so important. Unlike other core educational classes, it is the hands-on training that gives CTE students a leg up when looking at future employment – it’s not just theory being taught; it is actual training and doing that prepares our students for the careers of tomorrow.

Give your students a daily reminder of the importance of agricultural education with this free classroom poster by Realityworks. Click here to download a printable copy for your own classroom.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the July 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views NewsletterClick here to view the article in its entirety.

 

Finding Inspiration

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

I attended the NC WORKS Conference last month and walked away truly inspired.  I work in sales for Realityworks and keeping a pipeline of customers is essential for company survival.  Inspiration comes from seeing students become successful in life as a result of our products.

NC WORKS is not really focused on just finding jobs for people, but that is a GOOD thing.  They are focused on preparing people for well-paying careers and they have a great plan in place.  The pipeline starts with Career and Technical Education Directors looking at middle school, where kids explore careers suited to their intellect, their interest and their lifestyles.  That pipeline extends to high school, where students begin to make career choices, such as healthcare, or welding, or electrical trades, for instance.

Students choose a life career pathway that leads them to a certification, such as Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).  But, the NC WORKS group does not want the student to stop there.  They want the student to get that certification as a step into post-secondary, where the community college might take the student from CNA into an allied health field, such as respiratory therapy.

The goal is to get a student highly skilled so that they can best support themselves (salary) in their communities. That salary amount depends on where they choose to live, such as the higher end for areas like Charlotte and maybe less for more rural areas.

The bottom line here is the planning that goes into making sure we are pointing students toward careers that will allow them to live and prosper, create and support their families and be productive citizens.

The good news is that the products that my company is offering align directly in the pathways laid out by the NC WORKS commission.  Our products allow students to experience workplace skills, such as geriatric nursing, welding or electrical trades in a safe environment and allows a student to find out early if they are well-suited for this line of profession.  That makes me feel good.

This is a big charge to take on especially with and this month’s proposed Presidential Budget.  It is aimed at cutting Career and Technical Education funding by a national average of 15%, this certainly won’t help this initiative.  In North Carolina alone, according to ACTE, the state could lose 28% of federal funding under the President’s proposed budget.

Let’s hope they keep working on that budget and keep education in focus.

Welding Training Technology Sparks Skill Development and Cost Savings at Iowa High School

Administrators at Harlan Community High School (HCHS) in Harlan, IA understand the importance of technology in the education of 21st Century students – they’ve been using virtual reality welding simulators for years to help ag students explore the field of welding while developing basic skills and techniques. Their advanced technology helps teach students how to weld, keeps students engaged and saves money.

A Cost-Effective Solution

“For us, it’s not only about technology, but it’s about saving costs,” said HCHS Agriculture Education Teacher Dan Leinen. “You don’t need to purchase metal and rods and wire, yet it simulates welding.”

According to Leinen, one of the most notable benefits of the easy-to-use simulators is their  ability to introduce students safely and effectively to the art of welding.

“Unlike real welding equipment, no one is afraid of a video game – they’re just going to go for it,” said Leinen. “The anxiety of going out and welding for the first time is totally gone. That’s something I can’t teach.”

Funding the Simulators with Local Support

After experiencing Realityworks’ welding solutions and seeing the advantages of such technology in the classroom firsthand, the administration began raising funds to purchase additional machines. A variety of resources were used to help the school acquire the  simulators they now own, including funds from a federal Carl D. Perkins Career and  Technical Education Act grant and donations from the local Future Farmers of America chapter and local businesses. Fundraising provided to be the most important part of the process, although Leinen said there was a specific reason why the school was able to raise money relatively easily: the welding simulators themselves.

According to Leinen, the school’s ability to bring potential donors into the classroom and experience the simulators firsthand had a significant impact on the businesses’ decision to donate funds.

“We had one here already, and if people wanted, they could come here and see it,” said Leinen. “When people got their hands on it and saw what they would be supporting, and experienced what the kids would do in the classroom, it was a huge seller.”

Leinen recalls one company owner who had an FFA background but had never welded. He sat down and tried the simulator and almost instantly committed to donating funds.

“In today’s economy, it’s hard to get funds from companies,” stated Leinen. “But if you can  show them what they’re supporting, that makes a difference.”

Now, the difference can be seen in how the students are learning and the feedback that the school has received from the entire community. According to Leinen, the school continually receives feedback from parents, business leaders and community members about the school’s advanced welding training technology. He plans to continue taking simulators to state conventions to encourage more schools to invest in their own.

“It’s a drop in the bucket when you look at the total, overall scheme of things,” said Leinen. “This is cutting-edge technology, and for a school district to use the same technology that  major companies use to train is really exciting.”

Ready to learn more about the guideWELD VR welding simulator? Click here.

Educators Weigh In: 5 Ways to Use Virtual Reality Welding Simulators in the Classroom

By now, you’ve probably heard that that virtual reality welding simulators like guideWELD® VR can save you time and money while engaging students and training them more efficiently. And it’s true – studies like this one have been published that support the effectiveness of these teaching tools.

To help you get started with virtual reality welding simulators so you can see these results for yourself, we asked seasoned users from across the country how they were using these tools in their programs. Keep reading for 5 ways to use virtual reality welding simulators in the classroom.

5 Ways to Use Virtual Reality Welding Simulators in the Classroom

1: Use them to recruit students for your welding program

“We can’t bring students into the actual shop because of the liability, but with the simulator, students can get the feel for it and kind of see what’s going on before enrolling,” said George Karr, IT Administrator and Welding Instructor for the Hollenstein Career &
Technology Center in Fort Worth, TX. “Before school started, we had kids come in with their older siblings during  orientation who remembered using the simulator last year and were excited to show their younger brother or sister. They really like it – it’s a great recruiting tool.”

2: Use them to provide welding and manufacturing career exploration opportunities

“A lot of these kids have never touched a welder or turned a lathe in their life,” said Mobile Manufacturing Lab Technician John Paulus, who uses the guideWELD VR welding simulator in the Chippewa Valley Technical College’s Mobile Manufacturing Lab to provide middle- and high-school students from across Western Wisconsin with manufacturing career exploration opportunities. “We’re trying to get these kids excited about getting skilled and getting into manufacturing careers. This equipment is enhancing our ability to do that.”

3. Use them to engage students with classroom competitions

“We had competitions with the guideWELD VR unit… everyone was trying to beat each other’s scores and kept taking more turns. Everyone was really excited about it,” recalled Rodian Manjarres, a second-year student at the J. Harley Bonds Career Center in Greer, SC. “I liked it a lot because I could beat the guys at it. There are only a few of us that can get the gun to turn gold.”

4. Use them to keep more students productive – and safe

“When students asked why they were having to slow down or speed up or whatever, I’d walk through their weld with them,” stated Karr. “Once they got going, I could walk away from them and oversee other students in the shop who were working on something else. The kids using simulators didn’t need as much help as those working alone – it told them what to do so I could go help someone who needed it.

5. Use them to generate community support for your program

Harlan Community High School Agriculture Education Teacher Dan Leinen recalled one specific reason why his was able to fundraise money relatively easily: the welding simulators themselves.

“We had one here already, and if people wanted, they could come here and see it,” said Leinen. “When people got their hands on it and saw what they would be supporting, and experienced what the kids would do in the classroom, it was a huge seller.”

Leinen recalls one company owner who had an FFA background but had never welded. He sat down and tried the simulator and almost instantly committed to donating funds.

“In today’s economy, it’s hard to get funds from companies,” stated Leinen. “But if you can  show them what they’re supporting, that makes a difference.”

Ready to learn more about the guideWELD VR welding simulator? Click here.

From Chicken Legs to Life Skills: What I’ve Learned from Ag Education

By Diane Ross, M.Ed., Realityworks Senior Field Account Manager for NC, SC, VA, WV

I learn something new every day. But what I learned this week reminded me of an old Bob Hope joke (remember who he was?)

Bob Hope once judged the mini-skirted fashion model Twiggy when he said “Give her an inch and she’ll make a skirt out of it.”

Today, I learned from an Ag Education teacher that you judge chickens, namely hens, by their legs – or rather, the whiteness of their legs. The whiter the legs, the more “seasoned” the hen, and the more eggs she will produce.

This is something useful to me, not just because I work for a company that sells experiential learning aids for agriculture education, but because I am learning how valuable Ag Education really is, whether or not students ever become farmers or teachers – because I am a consumer of food.

It’s kind of like when I learned how to drive in driver’s ed. I never had an intention of becoming a professional driver, but I needed to learn to drive in order to find work, food, or just see the countryside.

Ag Education teaches kids the importance of producing quality food, distinguishing what is healthy and what is marketing on labels. It teaches kids how to grow food in water, fertilized by fish waste. It teaches kids how to mend a fence or a tractor by welding. Life skills is really a central theme of Ag Education. Kids learn how to do just about everything around the home or farm, but it also allows them to decide what they will be best suited to do in life. And, like most of us, they won’t be doing the same thing their entire lives. When life throws a curve, they’ll have other skills to fall back upon.

Oh, and another thing, just to set the record straight: Chickens lay eggs with the large side out first, not the small. I learned that from our Chicken Model.

Diane Ross holds a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. She has been with Realityworks since 2013, and has been instrumental in assisting educators with implementing educational solutions that make a difference in students’ lives.

Welding Pays Off: The Importance of “Upskilling” in Today’s Welding Education Programs

By Jamey McIntosh, Realityworks RealCareer Product Manager

Every April, educators, students and business leaders come together to bring awareness to and speak about the value of welding. National Welding Month is an annual celebration and recognition of welding’s impact on our world and the important role it plays in our everyday lives. Now is the perfect time to consider just how important it is that our welding students have the skills they need to succeed.

The demand for skilled welders is growing. The American Welding Society predicts a need of almost 200,000 welders in the United States by 2020, while the Manufacturing Institute has stated that in the next decade alone, there will be a need for nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs.

To ensure the welding industry is prepared to meet this demand, today’s welding educators and instructors must make certain that their programs and training methods are equipping today’s young people with the skills employers are looking for. And, in a workforce that will increasingly require those who are agile, adaptable and highly qualified, “upskilling” students above and beyond the fundamentals of welding will only make them more employable in a competitive, high-demand industry.

Skills pay off

With an oversupply of entry-level welders and a growing number of skilled welders ready to retire, welding and manufacturing companies are paying more and more attention to welding codes and qualification standards. This means welders who are certified, or who are able to examine and test their own welds, are more attractive than ever before – and their pay reflects that attraction. According to the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association International’s “2013 Salary/Wage & Benefit Survey,” a welder who is certified to AWS, ASME and other codes has the broadest salary range of any shop floor position, up to $83,000 for a base salary, not including overtime and bonuses.

While having basic welding skills can certainly pay off, other skill sets can also pay large dividends. Figure 1 depicts the many paths one can take when considering a welding-related career. For instance, the chart shows the average pay for a welding supervisor and a manufacturing production supervisor. With reported average pay ranges around $12,000 higher than an average welder, these highly skilled positions are rewarded with higher pay.

When speaking with various workforce development boards and companies within the welding industry, it’s not uncommon to hear welding and manufacturing industry representatives say that they routinely pay more per hour for employees who can visually inspect welds and supervise others in the creation of quality welds over those who could simply create the quality welds.

Barring geography, experience, skill level and employer, the message is clear: By focusing on basic skill development and the development of additional career-specific skills such as weld testing and qualification, educators and trainers are opening the doors to higher pay, more benefits and in the long run, more successful careers.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of “Welding Productivity.” Click here to view the article in its entirety.

Instructor Uses In-Helmet Guides to Boost Student Confidence During Live Welding

by Emily Kuhn

For Hutchinson Community College Welding Technology Instructor Greg Siepert, Realityworks’ guideWELD™ LIVE real welding guidance system is a portable, easy-to-use way to rid seasoned welders of bad habits and boost the confidence of first-time welders.

“We struggle with confidence a lot,” said Siepert, who teaches the first year of this Kansas vocational school’s two-year welding program. “When students are in the booth, I can’t tell them in the middle of a weld that they’re right where they need to be, but when they don’t know, even if it looks right, they aren’t confident in their ability. This system gives them real-time feedback on what they’re doing and if it is right or wrong, and it builds their confidence.”

That real-time feedback is provided inside the welding helmet on work angle, travel angle and arc speed during live, arc-on welding. It occurs in the user’s periphery vision, similar to the manner in which video games communicate information to players on-screen or cars communicate speed and mileage to drivers from the instrument panel. With the guideWELD LIVE helmet in place, users see real-time guides on the right and left sides of their vision, and can focus on those guides or their weld as needed during a weld.

The guideWELD LIVE system, which works with almost any MIG welding machine, consists of a welding helmet, speed sensor board and hand sensor. Once the user has calibrated his or her welding gun, he or she can turn on all three indicators simultaneously or focus on only one or two at a time.

“The big application for this system is for those who are struggling with those basics,” said Siepert. “You can give this to them, show them the indicators and watch them make the change.”

According to Siepert, a lack of confidence is a common problem among his first-year welding students. He shared the story of one student who had the skills down but “didn’t feel right about his welds.”

“I had him work with it for 30 minutes,” Siepert recalled, “and he came back and said he got it – and his welds had vastly improved. So did his confidence.”

Although Siepert teaches a beginning welding program, his classes often include students with a range of backgrounds and experiences. In addition to reinforcing basic welding technique and positioning, Siepert also found the guideWELD LIVE system to be a useful supplement for retraining.

“This system is good for students who come out of industry or another program or from being taught at home and had bad habits,” said Siepert. “Habits are hard to break, and this would help – they would know exactly what to correct in real time.”
Being able to easily introduce the system to students of different technical abilities was key, according to Siepert, who started using it with a class of varying abilities. Some students had never welded before, some had some education and one was a displaced worker with no formal education but years of experience.

“The setup is phenomenal because it’s quick and fast,” said Siepert. “I could pick the system up and move it to a booth, and it didn’t involve any modification of what I did. All I had to do was show the student how to use it.”

As Siepert pointed out, however, being able to successfully introduce the system to a new student goes beyond just getting them started. For those who have never seen this kind of technology in a welding shop before, successful implementation can mean establishing an understanding of why this type of tool works – and that it is OK to use.

“As welding education improves and technology improves along with it, and we slowly start moving away from how it’s been done for years, there’s still a consensus that if there are supporting teaching aids used, it’s a walk of shame,” said Siepert. “We’re trying to fight that… this system adds another level to their education.”

The guideWELD LIVE system includes curriculum, which features units on safety, welding defects and welding procedure specifications. Presentation slides, teacher guides, worksheets and tests are provided as well.

“Any time you can take away frustration and build confidence, you gain retention,” said Siepert. “This system is a stepping stone from the virtual world to the real world.”